Third-Person Effect and Social Networking: Implications for Online Marketing and Word-of-Mouth Communication.

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Fall 2009


Few studies have explored the direct influence of social networking websites (SNWs), and to the best of our knowledge, none have examined the indirect influence of SNWs on users and how that indirect influence leads to word-of-mouth related behaviors in SNWs. This study employs the theoretical framework of the third-person effect theory, which is grounded in psychology, to examine the indirect influence of SNWs and how that indirect influence may potentially contribute to marketing research and practice. Davison’s (1983) third-person effect (TPE) theory proposes that individuals tend to expect mass media to have a greater effect on others than on themselves. After the analysis of survey data, the current research first explores whether a third-person effect exists in the SNW context and if it does, how it differs from that in traditional media context. Based on theory and numerous empirical findings, the current research also investigates how the thirdperson effect varies with different referent “others”. Finally, based on the theoretical propositions of previous studies, this study links third-person effect to behavioral consequences related to word-of-mouth communication via SNWs. The results support all hypotheses. This work contributes to consumer psychology and word-of-mouth communication research, and generates implications for marketers targeting young consumers and/or those interested in stimulating word-of-mouth communication in the SNW context. Limitations are also addressed.



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